Statement by H.E. Mr. Jan Kavan
President of the Fifty-seventh Session of the General Assembly
New York, 10 September 2002
Ladies and Gentlemen,
is a great honor for me to join you all here today. I would
like to express my deep appreciation to the organizers of this
important gathering - the Christian Ministries of the United
Nations, the Abraham International Leadership Ministries and
the Christian Embassy. It is a special pleasure for me, since
it is the first event in which I am participating as President
of the UN General Assembly.
is on all our minds that our Prayer Breakfast last year was
so tragically marked by the horrible attacks against the United
States, in particular our host city of New York. In the aftermath
of September 11th, religious fundamentalism has been the subject
of many discussions. Unfortunately, sometimes these simplify
the notion of religion and downgrade it to its most extreme
are gathered here to emphasize and celebrate a more balanced
perspective on religion - the perspective of everyday people
around the world, to whom it gives a set of beliefs and values,
as well as an ultimate account of their place and purpose in
the world. For hundreds of millions, spiritual inspiration provides
them with the moral strength and the ethical guidance for living.
Personal spirituality and collective faith have helped shape
the history of humankind through contributions to learning,
art, the spirit of inquiry, and people's peace of mind.
current process of globalization has enabled the people of the
world to become increasingly aware of the multitude of world
views - and religion is no exception. Religion may either embrace
the global world - or reject it. I suggest that it is our responsibility
to encourage and celebrate our common humanity in this interdependent
world, rather than to vilify other people on the basis of prejudice.
History has taught us that, while great acts of giving are common,
people also do unspeakable things to one another. This is especially
true of people who feel threatened; whether their fear is of
outsiders, economic forces, or things they do not understand.
can make those threats - whether real or perceived - even more
profound. I suggest it is therefore imperative for us to continue
in our efforts towards deeper mutual understanding of how we
may listen to and assist one another as citizens of a common
planet. Ultimately, then, our common struggle in the realm of
spirituality is against those forces that threaten human dignity.
We need to seek what is common to the various religious traditions,
and continue to build mutual respect among worldviews, in full
recognition of their differing attitudes, beliefs, values and
lifestyles. Every religion contains universal principles, something
that is essentially human in us all. In contemporary society,
much of the cherished wisdom of the human race is drawn from
different religious traditions and practices. I believe it is
important for us also to stress religious tolerance and individual
religious freedom as part of what is essentially wise and human.
United Nations stands in the center of the global effort to
bring nations, cultures, and religions together with the ultimate
goal of building a world society that will live in peace, based
on the shared principles of justice, human rights and mutual
this noble goal stay in our prayers today.